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Inside the Shoenbrunn-summer residence for the Hapsburg monarchs
all photos by Rhonda Spivak

Modelled after Versailles near Paris, the Schönbrunn Palace was built in its current form on the peak of Austria's Baroque glory over the course of several decades in the 18th century.

Shoenbrunn Gardens

The Yellow Salon marks the start of the apartments which overlook the gardens of the palace. This room was once the bedroom of Emperor Francis Stephen and Maria Theresa in the early years of their marriage until 1747. and it is mentioned as having been used by Emperor Franz I as his study.

A Sphinx in the Forecourt of the Shoenbrunn Palace

The Guard Room at Shoenbrunn

Vienna's Shoenbrunn Palace- Where a Homeless Hitler Liked to Walk, and The Tobacco Jew who Helped Finance its Extensive Rebuilding

by Rhonda Spivak, November 1, 2015




The day after arriving in Vienna last summer, I decided to take a subway ride  to see the impressive baroque Shoenbrunn Palace with its vast gardens. The castle was first designed for Emperor Leopold I, and became the summer residence for successive Hapsburg monarchs.  


One of the reasons I was curious to see the Shoenbrunn gardens was because I had already read that Adolf Hitler, who had been trying to establish himself in Vienna had enjoyed walking in these gardens. 


After failing the entry exam for the Viennese Art Academy, Hitler nonetheless decided to continue living in Vienna as a Bohemian, living off the sales of his drawings of Vienna. He apparently greatly enjoyed going for regular walks in Shoenbrunn Park.  August Kubizek, Hitler’s best friend at this time, recounted that, “We often watched the old emperor [Franz Joseph] traveling from Shoenbrunn to the Hofburg Palace in his coach.”  Hitler had convinced his friend Kubizek to move to Vienna to apply to the Vienna Conservatory to learn music, and Kubizek was accepted immediately. Hitler did not tell Kubizek for some time that he himself had been rejected from the Vienna Art Academy and in 1908 Hitler abruptly severed their friendship and drifted into homelessness. It is a painful irony of history that when Hitler was homeless in Vienna meandering through the Shoenbrunn he lived in a men's shelter/hostel in Meldemannstrasse, which was financed by Jews-the Rothschilds. 



In May 1913 a homeless Hitler left Vienna for Germany, where he went on to become the Führer of the German Reich.  


Interestingly enough, in February 1913, Joseph Stalin was also living near the Shoenbrunn and took a daily walk, although he and Hitler never crossed paths. Years later in 1938, with the Nazi annexation of Austria, Hitler who had left Vienna in 1913 returned to this dazzling city that had previously humiliated him and witnessed his failures, from the direction of the Shoenbrunn palace.


After visiting the Shoenbrunn, I was very surprised to uncover that it was a Portuguese Jew, by the name of Mose Lopez Periera who in the mid seventeen hundreds had financed the rebuilding and enlargement of the Shoenbrunn palace as it exists today. Moses was the son of a banker, who owned enormous estates in Spain and was privileged to hold the monopoly in the Spanish tobacco business. He learned the tobacco business from his father.  Mose, like his father was "a Marrano', a forcibly baptized Spanish Jew, and he was given a Christian name, Diego D’Aguiilar. At the time of the Spanish Inquisition, his family outwardly adopted Christianity [Mose became a priest and then a Bishop], but they continued secretly to be Jews. In 1725, in response to the threat from the black market, the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa called Mose to Vienna to reorganize the tobacco monopoly in Austria, giving him the power to establish factories and regulate prices. He was commissioned by the Empress to rebuild and enlarge the imperial palace at Shoenbrunn, and in fact helped finance it’s rebuilding with 300,000 florins. 



According to a 1931 article in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, when Mose came to Vienna, he obtained admission to the Royal Court, [he became a Hofjude, a Jew of the Place] and in Vienna he again became a Jew.


He faced a significant amount of antisemitism as he worked to re-organize Austria's tobacco industry. The Court Treasury were scandalized by the notion of a Jew ruling over Austrian civil servants, and “he had to commit to not employing Jews in public administration and points of sale."


 Mose used his influence not only in Austria but also in other countries in order to protect the lives and rights of his fellow coreligionists. He helped the Jews in Moravia in 1742, in Prague in 1744, in Mandua and Belgrade in 1752.  " 


The JTA article cites the Encyclopedia Judaica as saying that "In recognition of his services Maria Theresa created him a baron and Privy Councillor to the Crown of the Netherlands and Italy." It further says that "As a result of his efforts, the Jews of Moravia were protected from pillage in 1742, and the intention of Maria Theresa to expel the Jews from the whole of the Austrian Empire in 1748 or 1749 was abandoned owing to his efforts."


Mose was a founder of the Sefarad Jewish Community in Vienna in 1736.  Since he was the founder, his name was on the memorial slab of the front of the Spanish Synagogue in the Vienna Jewish quarter known as Leopoldstadt. Although I was staying at a hotel very near the Leopoldstadt of Vienna, I had never encountered his name. That's because the Spanish Synagogue was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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